3 out of 4 stars
If judged solely on originality, “The Change-Up” wouldn’t fare well. The whole body-switching premise has been around forever and done to death. While there are a handful of excellent titles within this micro-genre (“Freaky Friday,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Big,” “All of Me” and “Face/Off”), most are a colossal waste of time.
Set in Atlanta and shot here last summer, “The Change-Up” deserves high marks for taking a threadworn concept and cross-breeding it with a relative new one — the bromantic comedy. It also helps that the two talented leads (Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds) are equally adept at comedy and drama. Stuffed to the rafters with rude, gross-out humor, the movie manages to work in genuine warmth, and on occasion is actually thought-provoking.
Friends since grade school, Dave (Bateman) and Mitch (Reynolds) have chosen diametrically opposed life and career paths. Husband and father of three, Dave is a straight-arrow type whose years of dedication and hard work are about to be rewarded with a partnership in a prestigious law firm. Slacker and would-be actor Mitch spends his days smoking weed and bedding bimbos and is a source of perpetual disappointment to his father (Alan Arkin).
During a boy’s night out and after pounding down copious amounts of booze, Dave and Mitch talk of their mutual envy for each other. While relieving themselves in a public fountain and speaking simpatico, the two men get their alcohol-fueled wishes granted.
The first and most obvious advantage of the switch is in the romance department. In a marital rut for years to wife Jamie (hard “R” comedy regular Leslie Mann), Dave, through the vessel of Mitch can now realize a longtime fantasy involving a co-worker (Olivia Wilde). After years of constant flirting with Jamie, Mitch can finally sleep with his best friend’s wife without guilt or technically betraying him.
The “be careful what you wish for” caveat kicks in hard when the men realize they have to perform in professional capacities for which neither is prepared. Despite being a smooth talker with considerable BS capabilities, Mitch is stymied with the lawyer thing and in mere minutes nearly ruins Dave’s career. He also isn’t thrilled with getting up in the middle of the night to change and feed twin babies. Intrigued at the idea of starring in a movie, Dave’s bubble is quickly burst when he realizes Mitch’s big career break requires far more physical involvement than he expected.
Co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore — the guys responsible for “The Hangover” franchise — are old pros when it comes to down and dirty guy/bathroom humor and lay it on thick and heavy here. Most of the zippy and profane-riddled one-liners hit their mark but also push the boundaries of what is essentially a date movie. On more than one occasion, director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) also goes a tad too far with the visuals. A prime example is an early scene involving diapers, giving us far more information than we want or need.
An added bonus — at least for us locals — is in spotting famous and lesser-known Atlanta landmarks and neighborhoods. The filmmakers also provide the Georgia Aquarium with a nice bit of free advertising and in general present Atlanta in a most favorable light.
“The Change-Up” isn’t anything you need to rush out and see, yet it does provide a great alternative for those not interested in seeing yet another retooling of the “Planet of the Apes” prequel. That is unless you’re on a first or even second date. (Universal)